Artist Shipra Bhattacharya on her new studio space, Bagan

Celebrated artist Shipra Bhattacharya, who has shifted to her new studio space —Bagan, lets us in for a chat on her work, the current art scene and a lot more…

Dharitri Ganguly Published :  02nd June 2023 01:14 AM   |   Published :   |  02nd June 2023 01:14 AM
Shipra Bhattacharya

Shipra Bhattacharya

Artist Shipra Bhattacharya is happy roaming around her new garden — full of flowers and fruit trees — that also doubles up as her studio. Strewn with carefully curated artefacts across the space, her studio, lovingly called Bagan, is indeed full of inspiration for the fatigued urban soul. But Bagan, beyond being the literal translation for the word ‘garden’ in Bengali, also denotes how her studio is a place of worship for her, where she creates new works of art. “When I visited Myanmar, I went to a place with a lot of temples, called Bagan. Hence, I felt like giving my studio the same name. I have plans to do small annual art shows here,” says Shipra. When not painting or sculpting, the softspoken artist tends to her plants. We loved the way how Shipra has placed earthen pots along the edge of a small water body filled with water lilies. In a hearty chat, Shipra talks about Bagan, her work, the art scene and a lot more.

Many artists have taken up installation art these days. What’s your take on that?

Installation art can be done in various ways and are a lot more experimental in nature. Also, people tend to write about what they have created. But I feel, because art is necessarily a visual form, you need not write so much about your artwork. What I see and perceive might be different from what you have thought or written about. The same picture can have several different perspectives, and that is what creativity is all about. If you give directions to my thoughts, especially in art, I think it doesn’t work. But again, some are pretty vocal about their creations, be it dance, music, or art. That’s a plus point. There’s no right or wrong, it’s just that I am not someone who likes to say or write in detail about my creations.

How do you find the current crop of young artists?

They are doing a great job. They are redefining art, and looking at art from a very different perspective. Post Independence, many legendary artists had a European influence in their work. But, generations later, we now see artists rooting for indigenous art forms instead of just following the Occidental styles. The way they present and write about their works are thought-provoking. So, you cannot deny their presence. I feel they will shine even more. The only con is that with digitisation and social media influence, it’s tough to hold on to originality. People are losing their individuality and uniqueness with everything getting copied, from food to outfits, and even artistic creations. Copying art is a pestering issue, have you ever faced it? It is not easy to copy my pieces — there are minute details in my pictures, paired with my unique style. But even then they have been copied, though not perfectly.

From your early days as an artist to now, how has the journey been?

For years, Kolkata has faced endless crises… the Naxalite movement, water crises, shortage of electricity, and so on. Through my artworks, I’m trying to evoke the emotions of very real people — their desires, their reality and the various issues unique to the city at that time.

We used to stay in College Street and being a middle-class housewife and mother, I did everything by myself. So, I painted what I saw around me. I could see women queuing up for kerosene or water, or the lodgers cooking meals after their duty hours, sleeping in rags and underwear, and I drew them. My work in the 80s and 90s was about the common men and women, which gradually shifted to female forms during the 2000s. I did a series called Desire that grew very popular. It not only highlighted the use of vivid colours and unique style of drawing the female anatomy but also urged the viewer to think and feel for the women painted against various emotional backdrops.

There was a house with high railings across the street where we stayed, and I could see women, with open tresses, standing on the balcony looking at the sky. The picture that I painted depicted women wondering if they could fly away from all things mundane since they could never express their desires. And this became the theme for my series.

Later, I started dabbling in sculptures and currently, I am doing a lot of fibreglass sculptures. During the pandemic, I worked on some huge oil paintings, two of which you can see here in my studio in Bagan. At present, I am working on a canvas that is almost 30ft long. I once did a series that resembled tattooed figures and thought of turning them into sculptures. I have sculpted six of them so far, mostly big.